12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamum1 write:
The one who has the sharp, double-sided sword2 says this: 13 I know where you dwell3 - where the throne of Satan4 is, and you are grasping5 my name and didn’t deny my faith even in the days of Antipas6, my witness, my faithful one, who was killed in your presence7, where Satan dwells8. 14 But I have a few things against you because you have there some who are grasping the teaching of Balaam, who was teaching9 to Balak to throw a stumbling-block10 before the sons of Israel which was11 to eat food offered to idols and to commit sexual immorality.12 15 In this same way, you also have some who are grasping13 the teaching of the Nicolaitans.14 16 Therefore15 repent! Otherwise, I am coming16 to you quickly and I will make war with them17 with the sword of my mouth. 17 The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will give to him some of the manna of which has been hidden18 and I will give to him a white stone19. A new name20 has been written21 on the stone which no one has known22 except the one who receives it.
1 Pergamum was considered the center of Emperor worship. It was the first city that was allowed to erect a temple to a living person. In this case, the person was Augustus Caesar in 29 A.D. The christians were persecuted here because they refused to worship the Emperor and the other Roman and Greek gods. It is interesting to note that the Roman called the Christians atheist due to there rejection of the Romans gods. Osborne*** (Pgs. 138-139).
Pergamum means - elevated, fortified
This city was in a natural setting that made defense an easier matter than other locations. Despite this, they were conquered several times, perhaps careless to some degree and somewhat smug.
Jesus warns them of another danger, of a weakness in their fellowship which threatens their place in the kingdom of God.
2 The ῥομφαία (sword) represented Roman justice. In this case, it represents the supreme judgement of Jesus Christ. Osborne*** (Pg. 140).
The image of a sword is also used to represent the Spirit of truth, and the word of His mouth. It penetrates to the deepest part of man. It is the word of the Word that is God. It is the testimony of Jesus.
3 κατοικεῖς (you dwell)
Or, where they live. Mounce** indicates that the Greek word carries the force of “permanent dwelling”. (Pg. 96).
The TR adds τὰ ἔργα σου καὶ “your deeds” before “where you dwell”. It was probably added to make the letter fall in line with the other letters that support the same language. Thus the whole passage would read: “I know your deeds and where you dwell”.
4 Throne was used in the ancient world to represent special authority and royal rule. The imagery around “the throne of Satan” probably relates to Emperor worship which is prevalent through out the Apocalypse. Osborne*** (Pg. 141) and Mounce** (Pg. 96).
5 κρατεῖς (you are grasping)
“are grasping” is used three times in this message to Pergamum. Here, the verb is being used in an idiomatic way and means that the church in Pergamum are continually worshipping God, and no one else. The verb is in the present tense, thus carries a continual force. Maybe a better translation is “are continually clinging to”.
The Church is called to grasp or hold on to the gospel. Reaching out to a different teaching can result in a loosening of our hold on the salvation offered by Christ.
Jesus faults them for those among them. Just as He warned the disciples of the leaven in the bread, He here warns them of the leaven of false teaching, that which is contrary to His word. He has no tolerance for the darkness of false teaching for He is the light of the world.
6 Little is known about Antipas other than he was martyred while standing up against paganism. Osborne*** (Pgs. 142-143).
7 παρ ̓ ὑμῖν (in your presence)
Greek: “by you” or “beside you”. The members of the church in Pergamum were there when Antipas was executed.
8 The christians in Pergamum were living in the enemies' camp, but still remained faithful. Jesus reinforces the idea of Pergamum being the seat of satanic power. Beale* says “‘where Satan dwells’ is a contrast with the first clause of the first verse ‘I know where you dwell’ in order to accentuate the idea that light and darkness cannot dwell together in peaceful coexistence. Therefore, a witnessing church will be a persecuted church.” (Pg. 247).
We may well be reminded here of the spiritual battle that is being waged. We are in the midst of a fallen kingdom, even as we walk already in the kingdom of God. Tares are mixed in the wheat, and wolves rub shoulders with the sheep. God patiently allows this, not wanting any one to perish but to have everlasting life.
Though Satan has his throne here on earth, Jesus has invaded the strong man’s house to free those that were chained in deception and sin. But there are some who have not heard the call to freedom, and some who reject the call outright, preferring the darkness.
The faithful will be persecuted, just as the faithful Son was persecuted.
9 ἐδίδασκεν (was teaching)
The verb is in the imperfect tense and carries a continual aspect. It could be translated “kept on teaching”.
10 σκάνδαλον (stumbling-block)
or “scandal”. The Greek word σκάνδαλον (scandalon) is the word in which we get our English word “scandal”.
Jesus would become the stumbling-block of God, the foolishness of God that makes the rulers and wise of the world foolish.
11 which was is added for clarification. The eating of food offered to idols and the sexual immorality was the scandal.
12 Allusions to Numbers 22:5-25:3, 31:8, 16. Beale* (Pg. 248).
13 κρατοῦντας (who grasp)
14 In other words, just like Balaam caused the Israelites to commit idolatry and sexual immorality, the church members of Pergamum were allowing the Nicolaitans to cause them to commit the same idolatry and sexual immorality. The church was tolerating the heresies that were being taught in their church when they should have been dealing with them.
15 οὖν (therefore)
The TR removes οὖν.
16 John continues to use the present tense to indicate Jesus’ quick, imminent return.
17 A glimpse of the coming judgement. “Them” are the false-teachers that have been referred to.
18 κεκρυμμένου (has been hidden)
The perfect tense of the verb lets us know that the manna was hidden in the past, but is still hidden at the time the letter was written.
The “hidden manna” is another allusion to the coming of the Lord and represents the “reward” of eternal life promised to the ones who are faithful. It stands in contrast with the “food sacrificed to idols”. The “hidden” manna will be revealed to the faithful at the end of days at the “marriage supper of the Lamb”. Beale* (Pg. 252).
19 ψῆφον λευκήν (a white stone)
There are several possibilities as to what “a white stone” means. White and black stones were used in voting for an “acquittal” (white stone) or a “conviction” (black stone). A white stone was also used in ancient times to allow admittance to events. Maybe the white stone becomes one’s vote for “acquittal” and in one’s ticket to “the marriage supper of the lamb”. Beale* (Pgs. 252-253).
20 ὄνομα καινὸν (a new name)
“A new name” is an allusion to Isaiah 62:2 and 65:15 which are prophecies. In these texts, Israel is referred to as “Jerusalem”, but will be called a new name once they are restored to God’s presence. Here, the prophecy is being used to refer to faithful christians in a figurative manner. At the end, the faithful christians will be in the presence of God.
Ἠσαΐας 62·2 καὶ ὄψονται ἔθνη τὴν δικαιοσύνην σου καὶ βασιλεῖς τὴν δόξαν σου, καὶ καλέσει σε τὸ ὄνομά σου τὸ καινόν, ὃ ὁ κύριος ὀνομάσει αὐτό.
Isaiah 62:2 And the Gentiles will see your righteousness and the kings will see your glory, and he will call you by your new name, which the Lord will name it.
Revelation 19:12 NASB
12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows but Himself.
5 To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, And a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off. 6 “Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, To minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath And Holds fast My covenant;
A new name represents a different person. Those who take the Lord’s name will move into His house as the Bride of Christ. Those who take His name in vain will find lodging elsewhere. He can turn stones into bread and from stones make a people holy to Him. It is with these stones He is building a new temple, a new creation.
21 γεγραμμένον (has been written)
Greek: “having been written”. This participle is in the perfect tense, so the action of the participle was completed in the past, but the effects are still being felt at the time the letter was written.
Our names have been written in the Book of Life.
22 οἶδεν (has known)
Interesting enough, the TR substitutes the perfect tense verb οἶδεν (has known) with the aorist verb ἔγνω (knew). The TR rendering would be “which no one knew except the one who receives it.”
Just as God knows the end from the beginning, so it is that He has known us. One day we will know, even as we are known.
NT = New Testament
OT = Old Testament
ESV = English Standard Version
NASB = New American Standard Bible
KJV = King James Version
TR = Textus Receptus (A late Byzantine Greek text of the NT. A
predecessor of the TR was used in the translation of the KJV)
LXX = Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT)
The Greek New Testament with Greek-English Dictionary B. Aland (Editor), K. Aland (Editor), J. Karavidopoulos (Editor), B. M. Metzger (Editor), C. M. Martini (Editor)
(BDAG) A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition Walter Bauer (Author), Frederick William Danker (Editor)
A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament Bruce M. Metzger
(Kittel) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (VOLUMES 1-10) Gerhard Kittel (Editor), Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Translator)
*The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.).) G. K. Beale
**The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) Robert H. Mounce
***Revelation (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) Grant R. Osborne
+Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics Daniel B. Wallace
++An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek C. F. D. Moule
+++Biblical Greek (Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici) Maximilian Zerwick
A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament Max Zerwick (Author), Mary Grosvenor (Author)
Ἀποκάλυψις 2·12 Καὶ τῷ ἀγγέλῳ τῆς ἐν Περγάμῳ ἐκκλησίας γράψον·
Τάδε λέγει ὁ ἔχων τὴν ῥομφαίαν τὴν δίστομον τὴν ὀξεῖαν· 13 οἶδα ποῦ κατοικεῖς, ὅπου ὁ θρόνος τοῦ σατανᾶ, καὶ κρατεῖς τὸ ὄνομά μου καὶ οὐκ ἠρνήσω τὴν πίστιν μου καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἀντιπᾶς ὁ μάρτυς μου ὁ πιστός μου, ὃς ἀπεκτάνθη παρ ̓ ὑμῖν, ὅπου ὁ σατανᾶς κατοικεῖ. 14 ἀλλ ̓ ἔχω κατὰ σοῦ ὀλίγα ὅτι ἔχεις ἐκεῖ κρατοῦντας τὴν διδαχὴν Βαλαάμ, ὃς ἐδίδασκεν τῷ Βαλὰκ βαλεῖν σκάνδαλον ἐνώπιον τῶν υἱῶν Ἰσραὴλ φαγεῖν εἰδωλόθυτα καὶ πορνεῦσαι. 15 οὕτως ἔχεις καὶ σὺ κρατοῦντας τὴν διδαχὴν [τῶν] Νικολαϊτῶν ὁμοίως. 16 μετανόησον οὖν· εἰ δὲ μή, ἔρχομαί σοι ταχὺ καὶ πολεμήσω μετ ̓ αὐτῶν ἐν τῇ ῥομφαίᾳ τοῦ στόματός μου. Ἀποκάλυψις 2·17 Ὁ ἔχων οὖς ἀκουσάτω τί τὸ πνεῦμα λέγει ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις. Τῷ νικῶντι δώσω αὐτῷ τοῦ μάννα τοῦ κεκρυμμένου καὶ δώσω αὐτῷ ψῆφον λευκήν, καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν ψῆφον ὄνομα καινὸν γεγραμμένον ὃ οὐδεὶς οἶδεν εἰ μὴ ὁ λαμβάνων.